Thursday, July 31st, 2008
If you’re selling crap, if your website sucks or your customer service is non-existent, then you are likely making your marketing efforts much harder than need be. This is never more true than when talking about social media marketing. If you’d be so kind, allow me to elaborate.
Recently the masochists here at Collective Thoughts tasked me with writing the odd tidbit of social goodiness I was certainly bemused at the prospect of doing so. You see, in the end analysis I am a business consultant that almost exclusively moves from the mindset of what is best for the SMB (small to medium sized business) – which is not always to favour Social Media Marketing. Actually, for some time there was every reason to question where it fits inside the marketing toolbox at all when success already existed without it.
(inspired by Web Pages that Suck!)
And what is the secret to social media marketing success anyways? That will all depend on what you’re looking to get out of it. Some common benefits include;
- Branding and brand management
- Customer service/relations
- SEO implications (rankings/SERP management)
- Sales (advertising, product or service)
- Leads (primary and secondary)
- Qualitative market research
While in most cases you will have multiple goals and benchmarks for measuring success, there is one simple concept that you should consider to ultimately ease the strain on your marketing load; quality.
The quality connection
Ultimately with any type of offering one of the primary factors that truly needs addressing is quality. Your efforts in marketing will always be best served and budgets eased by putting the effort into quality control throughout the business lifecycle. Should future plans include strong web support from SEO, SMM or even Branding and Qualitative Research aspects, quality is your friend and can do much of the work for you. You should put an effort into each aspect as this will ultimately help you maximize your marketing efforts.
Some examples include;
- Quality products and services
- Quality information/resources
- Quality conversations and interactions
- Quality presentation (website and packaging)
- Quality content (websites/blogs)
- Quality infrastructure and usability (online and off)
By making all efforts possible in attaining the highest possible levels of quality, your efforts in not only social media marketing, but all areas of your marketing plan shall be eased. It is no longer the world of hard sell and the viral wonderment of cumulative efforts shall bear its sweetest fruit.
Do your self a favour and don’t be swayed into thinking that shortcomings in your approach can be made up with marketing budgets. While reach can be improved, ultimately the social world fumbling could do more harm than good to your cause.
Understanding the value of quality we can also look to the actual traffic generated from your SMM campaigns.
Quality traffic over quantity
No matter what the goals of your SMM campaign may be, targeted traffic will always be the call of the day. By running generalized campaigns one ultimately attracts generalized traffic which is usually not effective in the end analysis.
- Would you rather have a momentous wave of mindless Diggers or lesser set of targeted TechCrunchers for that latest service offering?
- Would you rather a sea of Stumblers or a trickle from Kaboodle with that new camera line your pimping?
- How about market influencers?
A single positive experience from a market influencer can be worth more than a Digg and Stumble rush combined. It is often the quality of the visitors that we desire over sheer numbers.
One must certainly try and decide early on what your goals, qualifiers and associated values will be for a social media marketing campaign as mere mass of traffic to the website is usually not going to get the job done. In most cases you should be more focussed on the qualities of the visitors generated. Are they your target market? How can they further your course to the ultimate goals of the campaign? Is the traffic generation method sustainable?
Once more, quality is an important aspect that must be considered.
Word of mouth travels at the speed of sound
And so, you should at all times remember that one’s efforts from the goal setting, systems and planning to the development and analysis processes; quality is a word to respect. You should not cut corners nor try and fool a wary public into believing you are more than you are. This attention to quality will surely be noted in the greater sphere and pay the ultimate dividends to be reaped from a successfully social media marketing campaign and beyond.
The next time you hear ‘quality over quantity’ remember to look in the metaphorical mirror to ensure your mindset seeks out the qualities of success.
Monday, July 21st, 2008
IBM was well known for having golf course privileges for its employees. Quite a perk, right? Well it paid off for IBM, as it kept employees going on talking shop on the golf course.
Enter social media. Corporations and draconian IT departments out there often block many or all social media sites from employee consumption. Question is, is this really the right way to approach this? Or rather, should companies embrace their employees natural want for social media.
Zappos is one such company that comes to mind for me when thinking about someone doing it right. Twitter.zappos.com shows over 400 of their employees and what they are doing. I’m a big fan of this approach:
Does it make sense to turn off social media on your employees? Perhaps its a trust factor. My opinion: if you trust them enough to run your business, they should be able to have a social media outlet. And if you are proactive and support it as part of your business culture, then viola! – you now have a social media team in house (at least part of the way there).
Infoworld just had a great perspective on this issue:
The primary value of a social network is the aggregation of people on it. Block your employees from getting on a network, and you block their access to developing a far-flung group of people who can act as free advisers, leads for new businesses, or prospective new hires.
“If you’re isolated, you’re of no value to a manager,” says Tom Hayes, author of “Jump Point: How Network Culture Is Revolutionizing Business.” He adds, “And if you’re management, ask yourself: What walled garden has ever prospered over time?”
Hayes says that social networks effectively disseminate information about industry trends, product announcements, and new talents. He adds, “Your best employees are the ones who are the most connected and most current.”
Block says that social networks’ real value rests in making an added connection that previously was not present, especially if those connections lead to offline partnerships.
Other companies are starting to embrace what would have previously been considered unconventional freedoms. Take Google’s 20-percent time, for example:
We offer our engineers “20-percent time” so that they’re free to work on what they’re really passionate about. Google Suggest, AdSense for Content and Orkut are among the many products of this perk.
Last but not least, I had a chance to reach out to Melanie Nathan from Canada Internet Video company, Statusfirm:
“Although I work for an organization that not only understands, but fully supports Social Media participation among its employees, there are still some challenges to overcome. Finding a good balance between daily duties while still being attentive to social media profiles is often difficult. Proper time management skills and an ability to focus are therefore essential. Without them, your employer may consider it all a waste of time.”
So, my friends – of course there are legal and HR implications, but if you are going to give your employees access to the Internet, you’ve got to be prepared of the consequences, and welcome them!
Thursday, July 3rd, 2008
An intimate guide for the socially inclined
Unless the rock you’re hiding under has been blocking that Wi-fi signal you were pinching, you’ve likely heard of the latest Social Network in the fray – Plurk. And those of you not in the quarry would know its like Twitter’s friendlier sister who’s got a full featured personality. But is Plurk really a player in the big game with the likes of MySpace, Facebook and Twitter? Who are these Plurkers and should you bother with yet another social profile?
To look into just what is going on over there and find out what might make this cool tool or deadpool; we decided to talk to some People Lurkers (Plurkers).
The initial experience
There is certainly a sense that the Twitter Whale has a large role in Plurk’s initial success as is some of the ‘gee whiz’ factor that Plurk brings to the table. There was certainly no lack of Twitter references or people that had emigrated via Tweets as down-time and fluttery birds left the addiction unsatisfied. But that certainly wouldn’t explain why people stayed.
One thing common in my research was the fact that Plurk seems to enable and encourage a friendlier atmosphere and is perceived not to be as business-like as Twitter… Why? That seems to vary on items including;
- The Name
- The Timeline
- Emoticons (smileys)
- Threaded conversations
- Chat room environment (which Old Schoolers seemed to like)
- Conversation diversity
- Relaxed personal environment
This common sentiment was best put by Audrey Seiberling with;
“I see Plurk as more of a social gathering and Twitter as a professional tool.”
But this wasn’t uniquely universal as noted by Mike Wilton, whom is more an information hound than socialite;
“ …a lot of the users that I typically get my information from aren’t using it and the ones who are; aren’t using it in the same way they use Twitter. Plurk has been filled with a lot more banter than information sharing.”
In the end the most endearing aspect seems to be a personal touch that many get from it. Many people related to it much like forums and chat rooms of days gone by. For the Bloggerati out there is a great place to reach out and communicate with the user base on a more informal atmosphere. Twitter is often perceived to be a publishing atmosphere whereas Plurk offers true, cohesive interactions.
Who’s using Plurk?
While I did have limited access to the full numbers and other 3rd party sources vary, it is safe to say that much of the early adopters are definitely the geeky types and more specifically, the web development, blogging and marketing set. One of the better responses once more came from Audrey;
“I truly believe internet marketers are the beta testers for all things “trendy” on the net.” – Audrey Seiberling
We have seen some of the usual suspects like Leo LaPorte and Guy Kawasaki, as well as socialites such as Muhammad Saleem, Maki and Progblogger’s Darren Rowse. I haven’t really seen too many big name evangelists outside of Leo. There has not been corporate adoption such as we’ve witnessed with Twitter… but that could likely change should the buzz continue.
More and more as each week passes the demographics seem to be getting more toward the average web wanderer as its user base swells. Is it enough to make it a legitimate place for leveraging marketing campaigns or research? There seems to be enough inertia at this point to seriously consider it and start building a dialogue – but remember this is a more personal space and tact is likely an important tool in best utilizing the power of Plurk.
Is this business or personal?
Another area that we talked about was how Plurk was being used. While seen almost entirely as a networking tool there was also the same line of thought that it was encouraging less formal conversations. Some Plurkers also noted that they found the informal setting had allowed them to get on the radar with those they considered to be the thought leaders in their industry. Once more the lines of personal and professional seemed to meld.
Some noted aspects being;
- Blog visibility
- Forming industry relationships
- Forming friendships with like minded individuals
- Meeting new friends
- Personal support mechanism
- Access to industry whos-who
Among the respondents, Steven Bradley summed it up well;
“The people I network with are like minded individuals, but we network in a personal and conversational manner.”
One very interesting aspect is that many people gravitated to the site for networking only to find themselves in a more relaxed personal setting. This most certainly not only creates a unique identity for Plurk but also hints at what may give it wider adoption in the long run.
Another interesting side effect is that many people have also found that their other social profiles have also been growing since they started on Plurk (such as; Twitter, StumbleUpon, FriendFeed etc..). So, while not a direct goal of using the service, it has been a tool for furthering other profiles.
This persona branding was seen as well suited to this medium to some such as Samir Balwani whom added;
“If you want straight brand recognition, more people seeing your logo and name, then Twitter is the way to go. If you want people to associate your brand with a personality, Plurk is where you have to be. “
Plurk as a Traffic Driver
While most of the people that took part did own a blog, most were hard-pressed to actively promote it nor seen great traffic boons. To qualify this though, it wasn’t far from Twitter activity in that most had limited response from traffic promotion akin to what they experienced on Twitter. Most have been inching towards more active promotion of their content on Plurk in the coming months.
“If a post falls in the forest and no one’s there to read it can it go viral?” – Steven Bradley
Once more pulling the train back into personal attachment station, there was an aversion to appearing spammy and thus greater intimacy with respective follower bases seemed to be the call of the day. While those that had tried driving traffic found a greater latency effect than one might with a platform such as Twitter.
One of the better snippets that was borne from this journey was again from Audrey ‘the Quotable’;
“With Twitters unorganized layout and difficulty in following conversations, I found that many sites and posts I attempted to share were lost in the fray. With Plurk, everytime someone leaves a new response on one of my Plurks, it puts that particular Plurk in front of all of my friends and fans faces again. This helps for people who may have missed the original Plurk to still see it and visit that link.”
One can surmise that such considerations which give rise to greater reach and presence would also work great for lesser known bloggers and obviously encourage viral for more known entities.
Be warned though, there is every reason to believe that this is not a place for the broadcast style of promoter. Merely posting your latest blog post, product or service announcement detracts from the personal interaction and can as easily turn people off. Once one earns respect among followers/friends is likely the best time to start considering overt promotions or data collection.
As with many related sites, networking and forming consumer relations should be the primary goal and driving traffic a mere benefit of those relationships. This is not as much social media is it is a networking platform – understand this well.
Which way did that rabbit go?
One of the more troublesome or unique aspects to Plurk is trying to contain and track the conversations one gets in. Notably, people long for a way to hunt down favourite threads and past interactions. To a certain degree one can do so via cliques; private threads that can easily be accessed. But adoption of this wonky system is slow.
Most people though have not been utilizing them to any degree and most agree some further type of segmentation would be useful. While considered an upgrade to systems such as Twitter some consistent road blocks included;
- Building cliques non-intuitive
- No notification of Private/Clique Plurks
- Resistance to checking Private/Clique Plurks
- Instability of Clique system
One simple example that Samir noted in his lamentation of the fumbling system was;
“ ….some way to alert the user that they have private plurks even if it’s just another link, for example 6 updates | 250 responses | 7 private plurks | 100 private responses – ”
Ultimately while there are situations where grouping followers can be advantageous, it does not solve the problem of being able to track conversations with greater ease. This is certainly one area that is worth looking at for the Plurk development team.
The Crystal Ball
One of the more important areas we covered in our conversations with Plurkers was where they felt Plurk was headed. There were mixed feelings as far as where it might fit in as far as reaching maximum velocity or ultimately being a niche locale. A flash in the pan it most certainly is not; to a person, each felt there was a future for this micro-blogging schizophrenic.
In many ways, as noted, Plurk is not really a Twitter clone nor replacement. It does remain to be seen if people really have time for both in their busy lives. Beyond that there was a sense that some new features are required to really make this a true competitor to Twitter;
- search for friends by Zip Code, Area Code, Interests, etc
- SMS, IM, and API support,
- Browser add-on system
- Ability to bookmark/track Plurk threads
- Groups or rooms that anyone can join (unlike cliques)
Some good news is that the Plurk team has discussed having an API released soon and are cognisant of the potential issues;
“We will release an API, the reason why we don’t do it now is because it’s a challenge to make it scale – > and we don’t want to release something that will be a burden for the general service.” – Amix’s comment on PlurkiVerse
One does have to believe that there is the potential for the service to actually plateau short of wider adoption without some more prominent evangelists to legitimize it or features to deal with some existing roadblocks. While the personal nature of the platform and threaded replies are certainly strong points, people will usually hang out where their friends are – so adoption may be the key to its ultimate place in the social networking space.
Obviously along with this will be the ability or Plurk to scale properly without getting into the crash cycle such as we’ve seen on Twitter. Once more, there are as many differences as similarities between Plurk and Twitter and one can’t truly compare the two
The Verdict? If you’re looking for a new social space with a personal flavour you most certainly should give Plurk a try. If you’re a business or blogger looking to further nurture a following or consumer relations, then be warned this is a place where broadcast style micro-blogging without a more personal touch can easily backfire.
If you’re interested in carrying on this discussion and add some thoughts of your own; be sure to check out the newly created Collective Thoughts on Plurk.
Plurk posts to continue your journey
Plurk VS Twitter – they’re not the same, here’s why – Tamar
Plurk brings micro-forums like Twitter brought micro-blogging – Search Engine Roundtable
Teeg’s wonderful Plurk series; the 10 Minute guide to Plurk ( and Part II & Part III)
Looking for live webcasts? Check out the Plurk Calendar
To those that helped; I want to thank some of the fine folks that took time to answer a few rounds of questions from yours truly as this post wouldn’t exist without you –
Kristen Munson – Social Media Mom
Samir Balwani – Left the Box
Andy Glover – Green Eggs and Spam
Mike Wilton – Musings for a Darkened Room
Audrey Seiberling – Shirley Tipsy
Zak Nicola – Zak’s Blog
Vicky Anglin – Vicky’s Virtual Office
Steven Bradley – Van SEO Design
Also I’d love to thank all the fine folks that took the time to play in the following threads on Plurk;
What to do about this silly Karma score
Have you tried driving traffic via Plurk?
Are you a Plurk convert?
What would you like to see added?
Plurk and qualitative research
What brought you to Plurk and what keeps you there?
Informal age/occupation demographics – here and here